April is Heartworm Awareness Month & Best Bully Sticks wants to make sure you’re protecting your pup from these nasty pests! Here are a few quick tips on how to address heartworm prevention and make sure your furry family member is getting the protection they need. But first, let’s look at what heartworms are and how your dog can contract them.

What Are Heartworms?

Mosquitoes are the carriers of heartworm larvae, called microfilariae. The mosquitoes pick up the larvae when they feed on an infected animal who already has the microfilariae in it’s bloodstream and then pass the larvae off on the next feeding host, which in some cases can be dogs. If your dog isn’t on a consistent dosage of heartworm meds, then the larvae mature into heartworms and will work their way to the heart and lungs. This process can take up to 6 months with no detectable signs and heartworms can reach up to 12 inches in length live up to 7 years in your dog’s organs.

Prevention

1. Prevention Starts at the Vet’s Office: Make sure you talk to your vet about which heartworm medication will be right for your dog. There are a few different forms of heartworm medication that are available, such as oral, topical and injectable preventatives. They will all have their pro’s and con’s, so talking to your vet is always the first step.

2. Consistency: Being consistent with your dog’s heartworm medication is very important. Most heartworm preventatives are on a 30-day cycle, so BBS suggests pre-scheduling a repeating event on your calendar or setting monthly alarm on your phone to remind yourself to give your dog his pills.

3. For All Year Long: It’s important to use heartworm medications all year round. It used to be the veterinary practice to only give dogs heartworm pills in warm weather when mosquitoes were hatching. However, it’s not suggested dog’s keep the regimen all year long to keep the active ingredients in the dog’s system.

4. Schedule A Yearly Appointment: Your dog’s annual checkup serves as a time not only to get a health update for your dog, but you can also refill your store of heartworm preventatives. A yearly check up is also usually the time your dog will be screened for heartworms.

It’s important to note that preventative heartworm medication works to clear the blood stream of any larval worms while they are still in the early stages of development and have not yet attached themselves to your dog’s body tissue. If you think your dog has contracted heartworms, notify your vet immediately.  Preventative heartworm treatment will not help at this point.

Remember to love on your dog and be aware of the risk of heartworms this spring.